Vandenberg AFB Community
Employment & Economy
in Santa Barbara County
Bracketed north and south by Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, cities named after two heavenly ladies, Santa Barbara County is a natural site for Vandenberg Air Force Base, whose space and missile programs, rocket men and women have ruled Western skies since the late 1950s.
From the first test missile launch Dec. 16, 1958, Vandenberg has since put thousands of orbital and ballistic missiles aloft, and has collaborated with commercial space ventures as well. In response to continuing demand, aerospace and research and development firms have put down deep roots throughout the years and are major employers in the county.
Another key economic activity in the county is education, with area postsecondary schools including the University of California, Santa Barbara; Westmont College; Antioch University Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara City College; the Music Academy of the West; Pacifica Graduate Institute; and Fielding Graduate University.
In July 2018, the California Employment Development Department reported the county unemployment rate at 3.8 percent. This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 4.4 percent for California and 4.1 percent for the nation during the same period.
Home prices in the county have a lot to do with where workers live and how far they must commute, with costs generally falling from south to north. With U.S. 101 and multiple state highways, many workers choose to live in smaller communities and commute to their jobs. The average travel time to work is 19 minutes according to the U.S. Census. Median household income in the county from 2012-16 was $66,161.
Rail and Transit Access
Santa Barbara is bisected by U.S. 101, an automotive transportation corridor that links the city to the rest of the Central Coast region, San Francisco to the north, and Los Angeles to the south. Santa Barbara Municipal Airport offers commercial air service. Surf Air flies four flights daily, two to San Carlos in the Silicon Valley, and two to Burbank, California. Amtrak offers rail service through the Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains at the train station on State Street. The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) provides local bus service across the city, and Greyhound bus stations are located downtown. Electric shuttles operated by MTD ferry tourists and shoppers up and down lower State Street and to the wharf. Santa Barbara has an extensive network of bike trails and other resources for cyclists, and the League of American Bicyclists recognizes Santa Barbara as a Silver-level city. Ventura Intercity Service Transit Authority bus service offers connections south to Ventura and west to Goleta. The Clean Air Express bus offers connections to Lompoc and Santa Maria. Santa Barbara Airbus offers service to Los Angeles International Airport from Santa Barbara and Goleta.
The principal mountain ranges of the county are the Santa Ynez Mountains in the south, and the San Rafael Mountains and Sierra Madre Mountains in the interior and northeast. North of the mountains is the arid and sparsely populated Cuyama Valley, portions of which are in San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties. Oil production, ranching and agriculture dominate the land use in the privately owned parts of the Cuyama Valley. North of the Santa Ynez Mountains, agricultural activities and oil development have long provided jobs. The northern portion also contains Vandenberg Air Force Base, and thus military interests are prominent.
Oil production began in 1886 with drilling in Summerland. Enormous oil fields such as the Orcutt, Lompoc, Santa Maria Valley and Cat Canyon fields provided jobs and a steady supply of oil, gas and asphalt since the first oil discovery in the Solomon Hills in 1901. Protests have marked periodic resistance to the impact of oil drilling over the years.
The tourism industry, another major industry in the county, thrives on everything from the Spanish Colonial architecture to a major monarch butterfly winter sanctuary, from celebrity-watching to the cry, “Surf’s up!” Retirees bask in the sunny, mild climate and so do wine grapes, particularly the chardonnay and pinot noir varietals. Agriculture, tourism and wine have a significant footprint.
The county has long been a center for agriculture and ranching — President Ronald Reagan chose a ridge of the Santa Ynez Mountains northwest of Santa Barbara for his ranching retreat, Rancho del Cielo. Agricultural production in the county had a gross value of almost $1.4 billion in 2016, the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office says.
Some of the million-dollar crops included strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce and other vegetables, wine grapes and avocados. Flowers put on a strong commercial showing as well with cut flowers, seeds and nursery plants grown for market in fields that blaze with summer color. Lompoc, on the mostly dry Santa Ynez River between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, bills itself as the City of Arts and Flowers, and Lompoc sunflowers are so famous that bouquets of them were presented to Olympic medalists in Atlanta at the 1996 Summer Games.
The movie industry has had ties to the county since Flying A Studios started filming in Santa Barbara on two city blocks during the silent era. Stars who have at one time or another bought homes in Santa Barbara include Jeff Bridges, Oprah Winfrey, John Cleese, Jane Fonda, Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston, to name a few. The county has long served as the location for films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean III” “Sideways,” “Hidalgo” and “The Spirit of St. Louis.”
The California Employment Development Department expects a 13.5 percent increase in industry employment from 2010 to 2020. The department predicts the county’s hottest growth areas will be in educational services, health care and social assistance; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality.
Vandenberg Air Force Base
White-collar jobs, previously with an emphasis in aerospace but more recently in software and other high-tech pursuits are encouraged by proximity to the University of California, Santa Barbara. Vandenberg Air Force Base has traditionally had a large economic impact in the northern portion of the county and continues to be the site of frequent satellite launches. Vandenberg Air Force Base has an annual economic impact of $1.75 billion in the local area.
At the national level such websites as www.monster.com, www.careerbuilder.com, www.jobs.com and www.indeed.com have extensive search capabilities as well as resume tips, forum support and professional networking options.
The National Military Spouse Network, a networking, mentoring and professional development organization, has a wealth of career information at its website, www.nationalmilitaryspousenetwork.org. The group aims to help military spouses build a meaningful, sustained career path and offers a library of articles that touch on topics from entrepreneurship, resume tips, self-promotion and more as well as a membership-only discussion forum. The organization also features companies that are military spouse-owned or military spouse-friendly on its Homefront Business Listings page.
The California Employment Development Department
Job seekers can custom-tailor their searches on this site, create and upload multiple versions of their resume and be notified electronically of new openings. There’s an online job center, information on job fairs and workshops, and training options that include special programs and where to get help. Information also is available in Spanish.
Workforce Resource Center — Santa Barbara
130 E. Ortega St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101 805-568-1296
Workforce Resource Center — Santa Maria
1410 S. Broadway, Suite E
Santa Maria, CA 93454 805-614-1550
Both Workforce Resource centers have physical as well as online presences in Santa Barbara County that help job seekers hook up with education and training, explore the current labor market, write resumes and find jobs. Their resource rooms offer computers, telephones, fax and copy machines, instructional videos and job resource books. There are special services for young people just starting out and for seniors who want to stay in the job market.
Santa Barbara County
The county of Santa Barbara’s online employment page is a model of clarity, transparency and navigational ease, right down to listings of salary ranges for different positions and an online interest card that will bring electronic notification when a suitable match opens up.
City of Carpinteria
Carpinteria’s Human Resources Department coordinates the recruiting, selection, training and evaluation of city workers. Information on employment opportunities, applications, salaries and more is available online.
City of Goleta
From the home page, click “I Want To…” then “Apply for City Jobs” to see recruitment information, current openings and application forms.
City of Guadalupe
The city of Guadalupe, “Gateway to the Dunes,” alerts job seekers to its openings under “Employment” on the left side of its municipal website.
City of Lompoc
The Lompoc Human Resources Department coaches job applicants through the process online so they know exactly what to expect at every stage.
City of Santa Barbara
Click on “Jobs at the City” on the left on the Santa Barbara website to pull up job openings, hiring information, the employee handbook laying out expectations and benefits and more.
City of Santa Maria
The city of Santa Maria has a centralized Human Resources Department that handles all employment-related matters, among them job openings, selection process tips, job descriptions, salary information and a city organizational chart.
An employment agency can offer posts ranging from high-level administration to warehouse work. Many employers use agencies as their human resources department. Agencies advertise, interview, test and manage payroll. A temp-to-perm arrangement allows the employer and prospective employee to evaluate each other before committing to permanent employment.
Municipal and regional chambers of commerce include local employment agencies in their member lists, along with contact information. See Page 18 for a list of chambers of commerce in Santa Barbara County.
Always keep your resume up-to-date and have different resumes that target specific industries and highlight your skills that fit their job descriptions.
Compile several reference lists with a good variety of people and former business associates. Be sure to first ask each if you can use them as references.
Compose a comprehensive, catchy and succinct cover letter of no more than a page (this is no place to ramble). It will introduce you and your desire to work for the company. Have a knowledgeable friend check it for errors; misspelled words and bad grammar hint at carelessness and indifference. Know what the company does and highlight skills, work experience and education that apply to the position. Be aware that many employers now accept only online applications so get comfortable with computers.
Maintain a positive, professional and broad-based presence on social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn; almost all employers search social media sites to vet job candidates, and your absence there will raise red flags. Also be aware that images and comments posted spur-of-the-moment can be searched out forever and come back to haunt you.
Be prepared for an interview at any time. When you submit your application, a supervisor may want to talk immediately, or the phone may ring with a hiring director at the other end of the line. Compose — and rehearse — your one-minute self-promotional speech on who you are, an achievement or two and your strengths. It’s not vanity to make a good first impression. If a supervisor wants to know why she should hire you, be ready.
Always follow up with thank-you letters and calls. Even today, a letter as well as the quick-response email will separate you from a surprising number of the other applicants — to your advantage — and keep your name fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Judicious calls display your continued interest. Writing out beforehand what you want to say helps. So does rehearsal.
Be aware that due to the usually huge numbers of applicants, most companies are able to follow up only with candidates in whom they are interested. Don’t take it personally if you’re not notified that you didn’t get the job.
Vandenberg Air Force base Civilian Opportunities
Visit www.usajobs.gov to search for Department of Defense jobs at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
On the Air Force jobsite, www.nafjobs.org, civilians can see easily what jobs are available for them at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
For Base Exchange jobs, visit the AAFES career page at http://odin.aafes.com/employment and search for Vandenberg. You will need to register to access the site.
Computer Science Corp.
Search for Vandenberg contractor positions from Computer Science Corp. at www.csc.com/careersus.
Santa Barbara County Small Business Development Center
The Santa Barbara County Small Business Development Center in Santa Barbara provides free consulting and training for new and expanding business ventures, as well as classes, workshops and training sessions. The center is part of the Ventura County EDC-SBDC, the Los Angeles Regional Network and the national Small Business Administration.
Santa Maria Economic Development Commission
The website for the Santa Maria Economic Development Commission has useful links such as “How to Really Start Your Business,” “10 Good Reasons to Expand or Relocate Your Company to Santa Maria, CA” and “8 of Santa Maria’s Most Dynamic Manufacturing Companies.”
Service Corps of Retired Executives
Santa Barbara has a SCORE chapter (Service Corps of Retired Executives), a resource partner of the Small Business Administration, which provides professional consulting and information to small businesses through seminars, workshops, publications and one-on-one advice.
Women’s Economic Ventures
Women in business in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties can get help from Women’s Economic Ventures, a Women’s Business Center that gets its funding from the federal Small Business Administration. So far, WEV has helped more than 4,000 small businesses get on their feet or expand, and these businesses have created more than 8,700 jobs. The organization has provided more than $4 million to local businesses.
Small Business Resources
Learn the steps to start and grow a small business at USA.gov’s Small Business website. The platform features hand-picked government websites helpful to small business owners. Learn about business taxes and incentives, financing a business, importing and exporting, federal government contracting, state business resources and more. The website also provides information on a wide range of programs and services to help veterans, women, minorities and the economically disadvantaged start or grow a business.